Kirt Brooks Scholarship Winner Patricia Macatugal Shares Advice to New Students

Megan Barillo, CWEA, Members in the News, Women in Water

Kirt Brooks Scholarship Winner 2021, Patricia Macatugal

Patricia Macatugal is currently a second-year graduate student attending California State University, Long Beach to receive her Master’s in Water Resources Engineering. She received her Bachelor’s in Science for Civil Engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Patricia started her engineering journey in a high school environmental science class which ultimately got her thinking about her future in environmental studies. After attending El Camino Community College for three years, she transferred to Pomona, where she was able to narrow her interest in the field of Civil Engineering, with an emphasis in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources.

“By the time I became a senior in undergrad, I participated in a capstone project that involved the implementation of stormwater infiltration with regards to green infrastructure for the city of Los Angeles. My responsibility for the project involved research of the water quality for the project site as well as the performance and optimization of the low impact development structures used.”

Her three year internship with the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County exposed her to different groups and offices within the agency. During her time with the Wastewater Operations Group at the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson, she coordinated with the operations and maintenance staff through the procurement of materials and equipment as well as assisted with repairs and installments in the field. In addition, her time with the Wastewater Research Group in Whittier involved supporting several pilot projects located at the San Jose Creek Water Reclamation Plant (East and West side), in addition to the Whittier Narrows Water Reclamation Plant. There she conducted samplings for instrumentation verification projects and pilot project performances related to Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactors as well as the development of granules in wastewater treatment for future large-scale implementation.

It was her time spent with the districts where she became familiar with CWEA and the Kirt Brooks Scholarship.

“I want to use my experience and knowledge to educate the younger generation and students that will follow after me about engineering.”

Her advice to students entering the wastewater profession? Be patient and never give up.

“Looking back on my journey there were many moments I wanted to quit. My undergrad degree in General Civil Engineering involved a wide range of classes but they are necessary and help you determine where you best fit in later down the line in your career. You may not see yourself in a particular field in the near future but you have to pass all the classes and know the content for the license exams so be patient with yourself and do the work. It will help you in the future. I didn’t see that connection until years later.

“I also want to give advice to the STEM majors, who are women. Early on in my educational journey, I was the only girl in my drafting class, feeling out of place and I started to doubt myself. But when I transferred to Cal Poly Pomona, I started to see more people like me which helped enhance my experience and confidence. Pomona does a good job at shining a light on women engineers.”

At Pomona, Macatugal was part of the Society of Women Engineers Club and the Maximizing Engineering Potential program which helped her adjust as a transfer student to the community of engineering and the Cal Poly community.

Her KBS Scholarship fund was applied to her last year of her Master’s degree and was able to cancel all her loans for the rest of her program.

Macatugal isn’t discounting the idea of getting a PhD. But right now her focus is on her capstone project regarding the connection between wildfires and snowmelt in the Sierra Nevadas. We have a feeling Macatugal will hit the ground running when she graduates in May of 2022.

The Kirt Brooks Memorial Scholarship provides annual scholarships for individuals attending a College, University, Community College or Technical Trade School and pursuing a course of study related to the Water Environment Field.

Do you or someone you know plan to attend a water related program next Fall? Share this link, applications for the Fall 2022 school year are due January 18. Apply for CWEA’s Kirt Brooks Scholarship program >